Tips To Keep Your Brain Healthy And Functioning At Its Best
Today, many people are interested in health and fitness, so they spend a lot of time in the gym or running to get fitter and build more muscle.
However, although this is a worthwhile goal, it might be the case that we have a distorted priority. Why? Because our bodies aren't as active as our brains these days. In today's world, our brains are what we use to manage our relationships, handle our money, navigate, learn, and so forth, as well as to manage our careers.
When you train your body, it stands to reason that you should train your mind at least as much.
So why haven't more people already trained their brains? This is largely due to the fact that many people do not realize how much their brain can be trained, or how much their brain function can be improved simply by following the best health practices – through good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and so on.
In addition, most people are completely unaware of how unhealthy their current routine is for their brains. They do not realize the things they do every single day are actually damaging their brains. Those individuals may not only not be able to perform at their best every day, but they may also have a higher risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s.
The possibilities are endless if you nurture, train, and help your brain grow, instead of abusing and degrading it.
Here are some things you'll learn in this article
There are many people who have expressed a desire to improve their physical fitness and strength, so they understand the basics of what fitness training is and how to take care of their bodies.
Due to the fact that brain health is a lesser-known topic, this is an area many people lack even a basic understanding of!
As an introduction to and primer on your brain, this article offers you an advanced guide to how it can be developed and nurtured. We will cover everything from the basics of how the brain works and good nutrition, up to more advanced topics such as smart drugs and ‘embodied cognition’.
Here are some things you will learn:
• The workings of your brain
• Intelligence and its n• ature
• How brain plasticity is changing everything we know about the brain
• How nutrition plays a crucial role in brain health
• How to increase intelligence and improve performance through lifestyle practices
• Concentration and focus tips
• How to train your body in order to train your mind
• How to enhance your cognition with the right brain training
• Nootropics: how they work, who uses them, and should you?
• Psychological tricks such as CBT can help you use your brain more effectively
• The power of meditation
• Using electricity to increase brain power...
• What you need to STOP doing to prevent brain damage
• And MUCH more
Upon completion, you will have a better understanding of how your brain works.
Consequently, you can begin improving the function and specific aspects of your brain.
This will have a huge impact on pretty much every area of your life as you become more effective in social settings, less tired, more sympathetic toward others (and better able to manipulate their emotions and thoughts), better attuned to your own strengths and weaknesses and more.
By upgrading your brainpower, you can trigger exponential improvements in all areas of your life. Are you ready for it?
Here's everything you need to know about how your brain works (so you can begin to hack it)
With billions upon billions of connections and near limitless storage capacity, the brain is by far the most powerful computer on the planet. Although there are still so many things we don't completely understand about our brains, with every new discovery there are new ways to improve our performance and get more from our gray matter.
Here's the good news for you: all this information is freely available now and you don't need years of experiments and research to find out what your brain is up to.
Nonetheless, this is complex stuff. If you just want to get to the good stuff and learn how to get the most from your brain, you can skip this section. If you do not, however, I would highly recommend that you do not, since it will provide you with a much better insight into the cranium's near-limitless abilities, which will enable you to discover new ways to utilize it.
To begin with, you must understand that your brain is made up of billions of neurons. Neurons are essentially brain cells, and they function in much the same way as any other cell. In addition to a cell membrane, they also have a soma, a nucleus, a mitochondria, which provide energy to the cell and a soma filled with cytoplasm.
There are also a few extras in brain cells. These include axons, the long 'tails' of your brain cells that protrude from the back, and dendrites, which extend from the soma.
Unlike the axons of other cells, the dendrites work as routes or tendrils that stretch across the brain. These dendrites then form connections with the axons of other cells.
A neuron can come in any shape and size and sometimes they have connections stretching all the way from one brain region to another. Although they are microscopic, neurons can form connections from one brain region to another. In fact, brain cells don't touch each other but leave a small gap known as the 'synaptic gap,' where communication occurs.
As a nerve cell fires, an electrical current jumps from its synaptic 'knob' to one or several dendrites connecting to it. This is how signals travel throughout the brain.
It is believed that each time a neuron fires this way, it corresponds to some kind of subjective experience. For instance, one part of the brain – the occipital lobe – is exclusively responsible for vision. The occipital lobe produces specks of light that appear as pixels to the viewer when neurons fire. Other neurons could cause us to remember a specific event, smell, move a finger, or sleep. As neurons are arranged into groups, the brain has distinct ‘regions’ for specific activities. Each region of your brain is active at different times of the day – your whole brain is never active at the same time.
At any given time, this will probably correspond to your thoughts, feelings, and sight. When you see something, you often remember something else or decide to take some action as a result of the connections you see.
It is important to note that neurons only fire at one 'degree' of intensity - cells either fire or don't fire. However, an individual neuron may need to receive input from multiple different neighbouring neurons before it becomes excitable enough to ignite.
Hormones and neurotransmitters
Communication between cells is not only a matter of a current jumping across synaptic gaps. Axons contain tiny sacks known as neurovesicles at their synaptic knob. Neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, are contained in these.
There are several factors that affect neurotransmitter function, including brain excitability, memory formation, attention, and mood.
In some instances, such as when we are exercising or when our bodies detect sugar, serotonin is released. In some cases, however, it is released when we are seeing, thinking about, or otherwise experiencing something that makes us happy.
In contrast, the release of dopamine when we think something is important increases motivation, focus, and memory formation.
When certain neurons fire, neurotransmitters give us an understanding of what we should feel. Sometimes hormones can act as neurotransmitters, and vice versa. For example, testosterone and cortisol influence our brain cells. A neurotransmitter makes a cell more or less likely to fire an action potential, which is why it is classified either as an excitatory or an inhibitory neurotransmitter.
A neurotransmitter must interact with ‘receptors’ located on the dendrites of neurons in order to act on us. Thus, when a neuron fires, it might release serotonin from its vesicles, but this will only affect neurons with serotonin receptors that are connected.
Until recently, scientists believed that our brains would remain static after a certain age. Basically, they believed we would not be able to grow our brains or change their shapes once we reached adulthood.
Nevertheless, this has been disproved, since our brains are constantly growing and changing as we age. This is why we are still able to remember and learn new facts as we age.
A process called neurogenesis produces new brain cells in numerous regions of the brain. At the same time, new connections also develop, and there's a rhyme to help you remember what's going on: "neurons that fire together, wire together".
The two neurons will eventually form a connection if you hear a particular sound repeatedly while experiencing a particular scent. Through the process of ‘myelination’, that connection will grow stronger and stronger over time. As a result, the neurons that form the connection become stronger and better insulated, which strengthens the circuitry and makes it easier for neurons to fire one another.
One movement simply triggers the next automatically and almost without our conscious involvement. That's how we end up rote learning particular movements to the point where we no longer need to think about them.
Neuroplasticity - the process by which all learning occurs, thereby enabling a multitude of new functions to be obtained - is one of the most important secrets to improving your brain function.
How Our Brain Works (And What It Was Designed For)
It is likely that you have already noticed ways that you can improve the function of your brain based on this basic primer. For instance, you can increase neurotransmitter levels by repeatedly performing two actions you want to become associated, or by forming new connections by repeatedly performing two actions together.
A great deal can also be gained from understanding exactly what the brain was built for and therefore why the brain works the way it does.
In the end, it's all about evolutionary psychology...
You Are an Adaptoid
It is important to understand that the brain is designed to survive. And how do you survive? By adapting to your environment. The way your brain functions is influenced by this basic principle, which means it is possible to predict how your brain works in different situations.
An aspect of modern psychology known as behaviourism ruled for a period of time during its development. In general, this school of thought held that we could learn everything rote, and that we experienced the world subjectively through associations we formed.
One of the best known examples of this principle was the Pavlov’s Dogs study. Pavlov rang a bell every single time he fed dogs in this study. After he found that dogs developed a response to a bell, they started salivating even if there was no food present. This demonstrated that they learned through association and that the simple repetition was enough to form that association.
It is believed that everything we know is acquired through association as babies. We are largely blank slates (although we are not entirely so) as babies, so we learn how to interact with the world by association. As a result of reaching for things, we often find that we get passed them. As a result, we learn to understand the reaching gesture.
Touching fire causes a burning sensation, which teaches us not to touch flames again. Serotonin releases when we eat, and we begin to enjoy eating. We come to associate cookies with Grandma's house, and we learn language by watching other people's reactions.
In terms of neural plasticity, we now know that this is all due to the fact that what fires together, wires together. When something is very important (like the fire), dopamine and other neurotransmitters are released to speed up the formation of memories.
This is the best way for the brain to survive because our environment is always changing. Our brains ensure that the behaviors we acquire are perfectly suited to the environments in which we are. At the end of the day, we learn to avoid danger and gravitate toward food, shelter, and sex.
This is important because we are adapting to any situation we are placed in. That means that you are still adjusting to working in an office, being stressed, and looking at your phone a lot right now. Despite the fact that many unhealthy behaviors are strengthening with time, your connections are atrophying.
Embodied cognition and cognitive behavioral therapy
In spite of its success in explaining psychology for a long time, behaviorism was eventually found to be too simplistic and unable to explain the full range of human emotions. How does the behaviorist model fit in with the fact that most of us are able to learn by reading, for example?
If you haven't fallen from a height, how can you develop a fear of heights?
As a starting point, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) uses behaviorism, and builds a cognitive element on top of that. According to this theory, what we think plays an important role, and we can make new associations by thinking about it. If you think about falling, you can create new neural connections that will make you feel like you are falling - and this can then cause you to develop a phobia or change your personality.
Keep that concept in mind while we look at another one: embodied cognition.
We interpret the world around us with our bodies, according to embodied cognition, a theory of psychology that supports the evolutionary explanation that our brains evolved to help us survive.
Psychologists were asked the following question: What is it that makes you understand what someone says? You learned English growing up, but how do you understand English? In order to process English, your brain must translate it into something like machine code since it does not innately comprehend it. It was for this reason that psychologists coined the term 'mentalalese' for a time.
A more useful theory was put forward later. Embodied cognition explained how we understand language by relating it to how we perceive the world around us. Imagine walking through a cold forest when someone tells you a story. Imagining yourself walking through that forest triggers all of your neural connections to fire, as you think of its implications, your memories, and so on.
Basically, your brain is firing as though the story were happening to you actually. If you put someone under an MRI scanner while you tell them about the time you went swimming, their brain areas will light up as though they were going swimming.
This is how your brain can be influenced by imagining something or picturing something. As long as you keep imagining falling off that height when you are high up, your neurons will fire at the same time. Those neurons wire together and create a strong connection – to the point where you can’t help but picture falling off that height when you are there. As a result, neurotransmitters associated with falling flood your body and you pass out.
Using CBT, you can create more positive associations and connections in your brain, which we'll explore later on.
Boosting Your Brain Power With Brain Training
The fact that brain training works in theory makes it easy to understand how it works - by helping you to create stronger connections throughout your brain and to create brand new ones - so that you can learn new skills and improve your existing ones.
That's why there are so many brain training programs and websites out there that teach you how to do things like math tests and memory challenges. It is believed that the more you do this (in theory), the stronger your memory, attention, and mental arithmetic will be.
So would you be on board with using that kind of brain training?
My argument is that it is not.
Despite the fact that games like Lumocity or Nintendo Brain Age might challenge your recall or your special awareness, in reality, they are too specialized to be very useful.
These fun brain training games often introduce a setup that allows you to train yourself to become better at spotting penguins in a group (this is the kind of setup they usually use). When you repeat that game over and over, you become better at it, but this won't help you think of answers in a job interview – you're strengthening your neural connections around penguins. The skills learnt here cannot be transferred to 'real world' situations, so they're not much use.
You know what is a good way to train yourself to become better at interviews though? It's simple: go to more interviews! As a result, you'll be exposed to precisely the right set of circumstances and you'll be using the correct neural pathways to enhance that skill.
That doesn't mean brain training is a waste of time...
The Very Best Form of Brain Training
Performing diverse cognitive tasks and consistently exposing yourself to challenging situations and situations is the most effective form of brain training.
As a result, you need to constantly try new things, continuously test yourself, and constantly keep growing your brain. The more you exercise your brain plasticity, the easier it will be and the more dopamine, norepinephrine, brain derived neurotrophic factor, etc., you will produce.
You begin to lose abilities only when you stop learning new things and stop challenging yourself.
A form of pruning occurs when you go for an extended period of time without using a specific neural pathway, and that's why we tend to lose things over time. In addition, neurotransmitters that enhance neuroplasticity will eventually cease to be produced by the brain. In order for myelination to occur and neurogenesis to occur, brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and dopamine are required, however if they are not used, these processes will be less frequent.
Healthy and happy brains are brains that are used in a variety of ways.
As a baby, you are an amazing learner mainly because everything around you is new and the brain is inundated with neurochemicals to make sense of this new world.
Getting older leads to more connections and a deeper understanding of the world.
There are still many new things that you will learn and experience as you go to school and college, move homes, go through puberty, drive, learn new hobbies, etc. As you go to school and college, move home, experience puberty, etc.
As you grow older, your life finds a rhythm. You find a happy relationship, you find a job that you like, and your life finds its rhythm. You continue to work that same job for the next 50 years. Your brain stops growing when you stick with the same friends, you stick with the same hobbies, and you don't expose yourself to new experiences.
When you become more forgetful, set in your ways, and less able to learn new skills, you can eventually develop age-related cognitive decline and brain disorders such as Alzheimer's.
This is part of the reason why fluid intelligence (as opposed to knowledge) deteriorates with age.
However, if you recognize the importance of exposing yourself to new things and continuing to learn, it doesn't have to be this way!
Explore new places, meet new people, and learn new languages.
There is a direct correlation between being in a new environment and a flood of neural activity associated with cognition and attention. Go for a jog, take a different route home from work.
The brain was designed to learn with the body, as we've seen, so this is a great way to keep challenging yourself and to learn new things.
You can even learn useful 'skills' while learning. If you want to learn more from your brain, then why not learn another language? Why not learn how to do math? Why not learn how to program?
Having a slightly better memory isn't always enough in the real world, and things like this will be much more useful!
Computer games: a powerful tool
You might be surprised by how effectively computer games can help improve your brainpower in all of this.
It used to be thought that computer games were dangerous for children – that they would melt their brains and turn them violent. The reality, however, couldn't be more different.
A variety of studies have shown that playing computer games improves decision making under stress. Playing action shooters helps us make better decisions in less time than people who do not play computer games. We are also able to observe differences in color and objects on the horizon better (which is a result of looking out for targets), so they actually improve visual acuity. There is even some evidence that computer games can improve your chances of experienced lucid dreams - a type of dreaming in which you are aware that you are asleep and are able to control your movements and the contents of your dreams!
However, that is not where computer games' true strength lies. Instead, they offer a very novel form of brain training because they are all different. In each game, there are different controls, so we learn different motor skills, and we encounter new 3D environments. Sometimes even the physics changes.
Whenever you play a new game, you have to learn the new controls and the new rules.
All of this requires plasticity, as you need to learn how to navigate a new environment as well as how to think. The motor cortex, as well as the prefrontal cortex, are made up of new neural networks.
A new game is like learning a new skill. And you have the same release of dopamine when you learn it correctly!
Even more impressively, the truth is that playing computer games makes you addicted because it releases dopamine. Why is dopamine released when you play? That's because you're learning. If you can make learning fun, then suddenly you'll get better at everything!
The NOOTROPIC Effect: Can Smart Drugs Make You Smarter?
It has become clear in the last section that the best way to strengthen the brain is to use it and to use it in lots of novel situations so you can become better at it.
The same is true for strengthening the brain: it takes effort and practice!
As they say, nothing worth having is easy...
Even though I basically told you to play computer games to get smarter, this will seem like bad news for many people. Unfortunately, a lot of us don't want to train our brains to get smarter – we just want easy answers. It's too hard – they want the body, the strength, and the confidence, but they don't want to do the work! That's why 90% of people never stick to their training regimes!
There may be a way you can 'jump ahead' and get your results more quickly. And that answer is to take 'smart drugs'. Let's look more closely at how it works and whether it can work for you.
What is a Nootropic?
Generally, a nootropic, or smart drug, is a medication or supplement that can make you objectively smarter in some capacity. Nootropics are like supplements and steroids for the body; they can improve your memory, your focus, your creativity, or something else as well.
But are they safe? And do they work?
It all depends on what kind of nootropic you're taking!
In order to stay ahead of their competition, around 90% of executives and CEOs across America use nootropics of all kinds. In addition to helping them stay awake later, they make them more confident during presentations and give them a better performance overall.
In order to achieve this, one of the most popular nootropics is modafinil, a nootropic that stimulates brain production of a neurotransmitter called orexin. The brain's sleep and wake cycle, along with several other bodily functions (such as appetite and bowel movements), are all regulated by this neurotransmitter. The original purpose of modafinil was to treat narcolepsy, a condition in which people fall asleep without notice - but it was found that it could also improve memory, attention, and reflexes as well. There are no known side effects and the pill has a half-life of ten hours. In addition to increasing dopamine, it also increases a number of other important neurotransmitters. CEOs can take one in the morning and be more alert, more focused, and less sleepy for a whole 10-hour day.
One example is Piracetam. It is a nootropic that increases the level of acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine is a generic excitatory neurotransmitter that generally increases the number of neurons that fire. You may feel more awake, more alert, and more alive as a result, which leads to a more alive brain. It takes Piracetam more time to take effect, requiring your system to accumulate it over time - but many people find the effects are very pleasant.
You can also find things like 5-HTP on the other end of the spectrum. Basically, 5-HTP is 5 hydroxy tryptophan, which is a precursor to tryptophan, which is itself a precursor to serotonin. Precursor means ‘building block’ by the way. By the way, these substances are used by the brain to create other substances.
In addition to being a feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin is also an inhibitory neurotransmitter. All of this means that serotonin can alleviate stress while helping you to relax and feel happy at the same time. 5-HTP is a useful sleep aid since it converts serotonin into melatonin (a sleep neurotransmitter). It is possible for a CEO to use a substance like 5-HTP to 'come down' after a stressful day, reduce anxiety during a presentation, or just sleep more deeply leading to a more productive day tomorrow.
What Kinds of Nootropics Should You Use?
The question now is: should you use these kinds of nootropics?
Obviously, this is up to you, but I think it's safe to say no. Modafinil or Piracetam are known to have no known side effects, but that doesn't mean there aren't any. It is not known what would happen if you used these substances over a period of ten years because they haven't been tested for the long term. Also, it's concerning that we're not sure how many of these nootropics actually work. We understand the effects of 5-HTP - but we do not know precisely how modafinil functions. We also don't know how modafinil achieves its benefits.
Despite the fact that there are no ‘official’ side effects, I am personally aware that they are not entirely true. First of all, modafinil has been known to make you need to use the bathroom a lot. This is as a result of it altering the regulation of various bodily rhythms.
Additionally, I noticed that I bit the inside of my lips and ground my teeth a lot when on modafinil - likely because I was having too many stimulating neurotransmitters running through my brain.
People who take Piracetam experience headaches unless they stack it with choline, and even then, many report headaches and 'brain fog'. Some reports indicate permanent brain fog as a result of taking Piracetam.
As a result of modafinil, I become very focused, which isn't always a good thing for me. I become glued to what I'm doing. If it's work, that's great! I will be totally devoted to that work until I finish it. The good news is, if I play a computer game right before I start working, I'm very likely to be unable to stop – I'll finish that game before I get to work.
The same applies when crossing the street, as I find myself so involved in my thoughts that I am unable to pay attention to noises or movement around me.
In addition, I have difficulty being creative since an increase in dopamine and norepinephrine has been linked to a decrease in creativity. Our minds are at their most creative when we are relaxed because this allows our minds to wander. A new connection is formed between disparate neurons in our brains that would normally never be associated – this is why invention occurs. In contrast, being highly focused can stymie creativity because you become too focused on one thing.
In the end, what's the point?
In order for the brain to function optimally, it must be able to switch from one brain state to another as needed. It is not about being able to focus on one thing for an extended period of time. You need to be highly focused while you're working and relaxed when you're not. When you're coming up with new ideas, your mind needs to wander, but when you're challenged, you need to concentrate.
Artificially increasing a certain neurotransmitter makes it very difficult to change these states. It feels optimum but in fact, it's just an artificial high.
This type of neurotransmitter can also be addictive, as it can cause a condition known as tolerance and dependence in the brain. As a result, the brain adjusts to the increase or decrease in neurochemical levels. As an example, if you artificially increase dopamine levels in your brain on a regular basis, it may respond by removing dopamine receptors so that it can become less responsive. Additionally, it may lead to a decrease in dopamine production.
It is now necessary to take a larger dose of the same substance to get the same effect as before. In the end, your ‘baseline’ can fall so low that it makes you feel bad until you get it again. It is important to avoid 5-HTP because it can actually be addictive and is better avoided as a result. Modafinil and Piracetam aren’t supposed to be addictive. That, as well as making your brain sleepy, are not the answers to heightened social skills and confidence! (It is no surprise, really!)
Neurotransmitters Do Not Exist in a Vacuum
Besides all that, it is also important to keep in mind that neurotransmitters don't exist in a vacuum. A single neurotransmitter altering it will affect many others and have other effects on your body as a whole. For instance, we have already seen that serotonin turns into melatonin, while orexin affects appetite and bowel movements. Secondly, serotonin is linked to our appetite and cortisol is linked to testosterone.
There are undoubtedly countless neurotransmitters that we have yet to discover. In other words, if you take a nootropic that affects just one neurotransmitter, you are really making all kinds of changes in your brain without really realizing what consequences that action might have.
Thus, it is highly recommended to focus on other ways to upgrade your mental skills!
How Does Caffeine Affect You?
Most of us already consume a nootropic every day, which is caffeine. That nootropic is the secret ingredient in tea and coffee that helps us wake up in the morning and feel better. This is just like any other nootropic, the only difference being that it has been around for a while and therefore is a little more 'commonplace'.
Caffeine works by mimicking a neurotransmitter in the brain known as adenosine.
Adenosine is a byproduct of the brain's energy process. In order to produce energy from glucose, your mitochondria first convert the glucose into ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and then break that ATP apart into its constituent parts... including adenosine!
Our brain cells build up adenosine throughout the day as we think, move, and power our bodies. However, this substance is an inhibitory substance that makes us tired and sleepy as we use it over time. A good night’s sleep then flushes our brain of excess adenosine, making us feel better in the morning. Eventually, we become so sluggish that we are forced to go to bed.
It blocks the adenosine receptors because it is similar in shape to adenosine. Because adenosine is supposed to go in holes, caffeine plugs them and prevents adenosine from working. Consequently, we feel more alert, awake, and our brain activity spikes. Afterwards, other excitatory neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, etc., are released as a result of this spike in brain activity.
Do you get a healthy boost from caffeine? Is it safe to use?
Yes and no. Caffeine has been shown in studies to reduce Alzheimer's risk, so it is neuroprotective in that sense. It does boost wakefulness and memory, and it's relatively safe too. Nevertheless, caffeine is also essentially 'stress in a cup', as it increases our stress hormones, which can reduce creativity (as we have seen), as well as cause numerous other problems. Despite the fact that caffeine is addictive, it is difficult to come off it without experiencing raging headaches.
It has also been suggested that what many of us refer to as morning grogginess could actually be a withdrawal symptom from caffeine! In other words, we wake up feeling sluggish because we've been depriving ourselves of caffeine for so long.
There's really no right or wrong way to take nootropics, but this demonstrates the risks and benefits of them.
All these nootropics should be viewed like laser tools. Use them only when you absolutely need to get a huge amount of work done and don't use them 90% of the time.
Fortified brain power through nutrition and supplements
As a result, nootropics might not be the best tool for increasing or decreasing quantities of specific neurotransmitters because the cons might be outweighed by the pros.
Although you can effectively boost your brain power with some outside help, the trick is to switch your focus to your long-term health rather than trying to get an instant boost.
With the right diet, it is easy to achieve brain health. Diet is crucial for brain health, and many people do not understand how important it is.
To boost your brain power, here are some nutrients and supplements you can use...
Protein is made up of amino acids. When you eat meat, your brain will break it down into amino acids and recombine these amino acids to build your body's tissues. As amino acids are used in the brain, they can be utilized to increase the body's ability to repair and grow the brain!
The importance of amino acids does not end here. Several neurotransmitters are created from amino acids. For instance, l-tyrosine is essential for forming dopamine, while tryptophan (discussed earlier) is essential for forming serotonin. Some, such as l-theanine, can have direct effects on the brain, and in this case, it's calming. During the same time, L-carnitine boosts brain energy by increasing mitochondrial performance (more on this in just a moment!).
While it is possible to consume many of these amino acids on their own, in order to trigger immediate changes in neurotransmitter levels, as we've seen with 5-HTP, it can lead to imbalances, and this is never a good thing.
Rather than trying to get a healthy mix of amino acids, the best advice is to try to get as many as possible. As long as you eat enough protein, or eat amino acid supplements, you can supply the brain with all the materials it needs to create all of the different neurotransmitters as and when they are needed. Thus, you can maximize your concentration, concentration, memory, and relaxation at the same time as it is better at entering each mental state.
Getting lots of amino acids convenient is as simple as eating a lot of eggs. Eggs are the only 'complete proteins', meaning they contain all of the amino acids that your brain cannot synthesize on its own. Additionally, they contain choline, a precursor to acetylcholine, an excitatory neurotransmitter. In addition to being a great source of healthy saturated fat, they are also a very important and beneficial factor for the brain since it is primarily composed of fat.
Vitamins and Minerals
Likewise, vitamins and minerals also play an important part in creating many of the neurotransmitters that enhance productivity and focus.
A large number of neurotransmitters are formed by vitamin B6, while vitamin C boosts the mood, increases serotonin, and protects against illness (which releases inhibitory neurotransmitters like cytokines).
The vitamins and minerals also play many other important roles. Iron and vitamin B12 both increase the number of red blood cells, while vitamin D is responsible for regulating hormone levels, particularly testosterone. Zinc is critical for neuroplasticity, and magnesium combats depression and anxiety.
Micronutrients are necessary for the optimal functioning of the brain, so if you don't get them, your brain won't function well.
It is for this reason that you should stay away from processed foods. Anything artificial, such as a Mars Bar, a bag of crisps or a McDonald's burger, will fill you up but not provide you with nutrients. While you will survive, you will feel sluggish, tired, and less productive.
When you eat healthy salads, smoothies and lots of fruit and vegetables, you'll feel healthier and more alert. When it comes to improving your brain function and your overall health and wellbeing, a multivitamin is the next best thing. If you find the right one, it can be a great help to you.
Look for vasodilators if you're looking for an immediate brain boost that you can get from safe supplements and foods. Vasodilators are substances which dilate blood vessels (veins and arteries). As a result, more blood and oxygen will reach your brain, which will result in more blood and oxygen.
Vinpocetine is a favorite among nootropic-fans because this vasodilator focuses on the brain – and in particular the prefrontal cortex. Getting more energy in your brain right where you plan and solve problems means you get a cool shower for your brain, which some people describe as a comforting feeling.
Metabolic Enhancers for Cognitive Function
In a nutshell, this term describes anything that boosts your brain's energy levels, often by increasing your mitochondria's efficiency. The mitochondria in your cells are the cells' energy factories. Your body functions are powered by glucose and ATP, which float around in the cytoplasm.
You can boost the performance of your mitochondria by taking a variety of supplements, including CoQ10, lutein, l-carnitine, PQQ, and more.
You can also increase your energy levels further by using creatine. The best strategy, of course, is to eat healthily and eat a balanced diet.
It is widely used by athletes and bodybuilders because it recycles ATP (adenosine and ADP) to provide you with extra energy during training.
Recent studies have shown, however, that this also improves brain function by improving the efficiency of brain cells' energy supply. At maximum exertion, your brain recycles its ATP, so you get just a few seconds of extra energy. Creatine has been shown to increase IQ in people who take it, so this is a highly effective nootropic - and there are no side effects!
Besides being produced naturally in the liver, creatine can also be obtained through your diet (such as from beef). However, it works best when taken as a supplement in creatine monohydrate form.
Omega 3 Fatty Acid
An antioxidant, omega-3 fatty acids are found in tuna and other oily fish, nuts and a variety of other foods. The reason omega 3 is useful to the brain is that it can improve the permeability of cells. By doing so, the cell walls of neurons are made a little more permeable, allowing things to pass through more readily. It basically increases brain cell responsiveness through neurotransmitters, nutrients, and more - thereby giving you a slight boost once again.
Vitamin C, omega 3, resveratrol, and tons of other micronutrients are great antioxidants for the brain.
As their name implies, antioxidants work to destroy free radicals, which cause damage to cells when they come in contact with them; some can even cause cancer if they pass through the nucleus.
By strengthening your immune system, antioxidants are an important strategy for promoting your overall health, and will also help reduce your risk of illness. However, we're interested right now in how this can boost your brain power in the long term by protecting brain cells from damage and potentially lowering your risk of developing tumors later in life.
The use of nootropics and other strategies to enhance plasticity
Is it possible to enhance plasticity?
It has already been shown that the first and most important method of boosting plasticity is to use your brain and expose it regularly to novel stimuli. We have also seen that dopamine and magnesium are helpful.
What about nootropics that directly affect this?
As things stand, there are a few options out there...
Nootropics for Plasticity
As a nootropic, Lion's Mane can boost plasticity by directly acting on BDNF to increase the likelihood of new connections being formed (which increases as we experience new stimuli).
There is actually a mushroom called Lion's mane that can be consumed as coffee. Though there is little information on how this ingredient works or how long it will last, many people swear by it as a way to gain a mental edge and some unparalleled cognitive boosts.
You can also try CILTeP. Forskolin, artichoke extract, l-carnitine, vitamin B6, and other natural nootropics are used in this stack. Forskolin and artichoke extract are the main stars of the show, as they work together to boost cAMP in cells, encouraging gene expression. There are reports that it improves long-term potentiation (myelination) specifically, and some people find it effective (including the author Tim Ferriss).
The TDCS protocol
Another option is tDCS. This stands for 'transcranial direct current stimulation' and involves attaching conductive pads to your scalp and running a small current through your brain.
Since there is not enough electricity delivered to the brain for tDCS to fire, it is not intended to trigger brain cells. The goal is to potentiate them, increase the level of BDNF, and promote plasticity. This is proven effective in countless studies and has no proven side effects. It's important to know that the pads are placed around the head in different arrangements known as 'montages' so that the current gets to specific brain areas.
Depending on the montages used, the effect will be different - some will make people more alert and focused, while others will boost mood or improve sleep. What's fascinating about this is that the effects last about 30 minutes after using the tDCS.
In the same way that stronger nootropics are important, it is important to remember that there is no such thing as a 'biological free lunch' here. In addition, just by looking at the scalp drawing, you can't tell which part of the brain you are stimulating! Moreover, if you can increase learning in one area of the brain, you could theoretically unintentionally cause learning in other areas of the brain too, which may be less desirable. Be extremely cautious then!
But despite that, this is a very interesting option, especially when considering a) that there is a lot of evidence suggesting that this is a safe way to get a considerable brain boost and b) that many commercial products based on this technology are available now, as well as upcoming products. For instance, the 'foc.us' headset can already be purchased online to boost performance when playing computer games.
Lifestyle and Brain Rhythms
If you're careful, you can boost your brain power with the right nutrition, nootropics, or even tDCS.
You should also engage yourself in lots of new experiences and challenges so that you can use 'natural' brain training.
Even so, there is still one alternative technique that gives you an immediate boost in your cognitive function, your productivity, and many other aspects of your brain power.
And that is to sleep more.
When you don't get a good night's sleep, you will not perform well, and it's as simple as that. You will still experience slowing down due to the build-up of adenosine in your brain, and during the night your brain strengthens the connections it has formed during the day. Additionally, you replenish a significant amount of neurotransmitters during sleep, so this process is absolutely crucial to restoring your mental state. It can lead to sluggishness, slowness, forgetfulness and even depression if you skip it.
Many people ignore this extremely important aspect of sleep, preferring to work longer hours or wake up earlier instead. Over the long run, this will cause the brain to become less effective and reduce your productivity.
Improve your sleep with these tips
Follow these tips to improve your sleep and wake up refreshed and better able to focus...
Take a hot bath
You can promote sleep by taking a hot bath before bed. This will relax your muscles, making sleeping much easier. Additionally, it will help you produce more sleep hormones and neurotransmitters, and even help you regulate your temperature during the night, so that you can nap more easily.
Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule
Getting to bed at the same time every night is another important tip. The sleep rhythm we have is called the ‘circadian rhythm’ and it is a combination of what we wake up/go to bed and external cues, such as the sun and the weather, that affect our sleep rhythm.
You'll start to fall asleep more easily if you go to bed at the same time every night.
Use a Daylight Lamp
In order to speed up the process, you may also want to buy yourself a ‘daylight lamp’. A daylight lamp mimics the light of natural sunlight by producing light with the same wavelength as natural sunlight. Further, daylight lamps can be set to gradually illuminate the room in the morning so that they mimic the rising sun. It's like being nudged away by light, rather than being rudely 'startled' awake as you would in your evolutionary days!
Create the Best Environment
The reason for thick curtains is that light entering your room from outside can trigger the release of cortisol and wake you up if it reaches your brain via the thinner parts of your skull. In contrast, if your curtains are opaque, your body will only be able to wake up when you set the light.
A quiet sleeping environment and a comfortable bed are also important tips.
Take some time to cool down
A 'cool down' period is also important. This is a time when you don't do anything that might stimulate you. That means you don't have any phones, computer games or bright lights, and you don't have anything that would wake you up. Therefore, avoid all forms of stress. By reading something under a dim light, you focus on your inner monologue, preventing your mind from drifting to stressful things. By concentrating on the text, your eyes will become heavy, which can lead to drifting off (and harder to avoid!).
Brain Routines and Rhythms
As a consequence of this cool down period, you will have more inhibitory neurotransmitters and fewer excitatory ones in your body before you go to bed.
A fundamental understanding of this concept is that ultimately your brain and body can only exist in one of two states: excited or inhibited. You are always either catabolic or anabolic.
Our bodies alternate between being ready to go to bed and being sleepy, and being alert and ready to go during the day. During the evening, when it gets dark and we're tired, we receive cues from the darkness, adenosine buildup in our brain, and even dinner (which releases serotonin/melatonin into our brain). In combination, this slows our heartbeat, reduces brain activity, and puts us in a relaxed and creative mindset.
Although bright light wakes us up in the morning, it also causes cortisol and nitric oxide to flood our brains. We are awakened by noise and bright lights when we head to work, causing even more adrenaline and norepinephrine to rush through our brains. In addition to coffee, there's plenty of cortisol and dopamine at work, too.
Brains usually perform the right job for the task at hand by switching between these two states.
That's what happens when we play loud video games right before bed, or when we try and work hard at 4pm after eating and we're exhausted.
Understanding the importance of working with our brain's natural rhythms is crucial to performing at our best.
Additionally, it is important to avoid excessive stress. Because when you get too stressed – whether it is due to physiological or psychological factors – this causes our prefrontal cortex to become so wired and focused that our prefrontal cortex completely shuts down. During sports, this can be a good thing, but when you're trying to communicate or be creative, it's the opposite.
It teaches us a lot of techniques that can help us overcome stress and put ourselves in the right mental state. These techniques include visualization techniques along with challenging thoughts that are not as effective as we might think. In addition to addressing stress, meditation is also an incredibly useful tool that you can use to relax and calm yourself when you need to.
Exercising is Crucial
In addition, you have to get a lot of exercise in order to get the most out of your brain. Remember, your brain evolved through physical interactions with the environment, so it was designed to help you survive and adapt to it. When it comes to encouraging plasticity, learning a new dance or martial art is a great way to do so. Since the majority of your brain is dedicated to moving your body, it's a great way to do it.
Studies have shown that exercise boosts your memory and stimulates the production of neurotransmitters and hormones that are crucial to your brain, not to mention improving your circulation to ensure your brain receives a greater supply of oxygen.